Those daring men and their turbocharged V6 machines make a welcome return from their month long sabbatical this coming weekend. Yes, that’s right petrol heads, Formula One is back! And is there a better place to restart the season than at a track that has produced three different winners in the past three seasons? I think not.
Lewis Hamilton managed to claim victory at the Spa-Francorchamps track last year but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee him victory, this time around, as both Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel love racing at this circuit. Anyway, enough with the introduction, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this piece.
Belgian Grand Prix | Sunday 28 August | Spa-Francorchamps | 13:30
The Season So Far
The 2016 Formula One season has been a lot more competitive than its predecessor. While we’ve only seen three different race winners, the battle between Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg has made for intriguing viewing, while the rise of young Max Verstappen has added a slight element of unpredictability to proceedings.
As it stands, Lewis Hamilton currently leads the Drivers Championship standings by 19 points. The Brit has had to fight tooth and nail for his lead, however, as his teammate got the season off to an absolute flyer. The first four races of 2016 saw a dominant Nico Rosberg garner four victories on the trot. This run would be broken in Spain by an unexpected source.
This is where young Max Verstappen comes into the storyline. The Dutch youngster started the season off behind the wheel of a Toro Rosso, however, a dip in form from Danil Kvyat saw Verstappen elevated to the Red Bull team and Kvyat drop down to Toro Rosso. Verstappen immediately rewarded Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner’s ballsy decision to give the youngster a seat in the senior squad with a victory out in Spain.
Verstappen’s first ever race win seemed to wreck Nico Rosberg’s moment with the Mercedes man only winning one Grand Prix since Spain. Conversely, Verstappen’s victory seemed to awaken Lewis Hamilton from his slumber. The reigning world champion has won six out of seven Grand Prix’s post-Spain and has, at times, looked unstoppable. If the Brit keeps his recent form up we could well see him canter to his third consecutive Drivers' Championship title.
With all the pre-season hype surrounding the improvements of the Ferraris, it comes as a bit of a shock that they are yet to win a race especially considering how promising a start they made to the 2016 campaign. Main man Sebastian Vettel managed to get on the podium in the season opener while Kimi Raikkonen claimed second place out in Bahrain. They continued to give a good account of themselves with Vettel claiming second in the third race of the season out in China and Raikkonen taking third in Russia. They then managed a double podium in Spain. Things have gone a bit pear shaped since with only two-second place finishes from Vettel worth writing about.
Another team who enjoyed a great preseason but have yet to produce the goods this term are McLaren Honda. The team that features two former world champions in Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso have once again been plagued by mechanical issues.
While they’ve managed to cut the number of retirements down, those mechanical gremlins still manage to rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune of times. The Honda engineers have tried to arrest the engine power issues but without much success. The team has used 22 of its engine development tokens already, and while slight improvements have been evident, they haven’t enabled Alonso and Button to really compete with the field’s front-runners.
This is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar. Despite the multitude of changes that have been made to the course, it still is a snarling beast that’s capable of taking even the most experienced drivers head off if they are not on guard.What makes this track so perilous are the sweeping high-speed corners that the drivers go all out on.
Drivers will face 19 hair-raising corners this Sunday with the most challenging and dangerous segment being the Blanchimont turn which leads onto the start/finish straight. Another area of the circuit that will really test the drivers’ ability is the left-right-left sequence of turns which starts at the bottom of the Eau Rouge corner and runs through Radillon. This segment contains a slight climb that leads into a marvelous uphill right-hander – watching drivers attack the right-hander is one of the best views you’ll see in modern racing.
Sunday’s race distance spans some 308km with each lap equating to just over seven kilometers; which makes it the longest lap distance of the season. Drivers will duke it out over 44 of these lengthy laps.
Due to the wide nature of the track, qualifying on pole doesn’t really mean much. Only five of the last 12 race winners were won by drivers who qualified on pole.
Spa is notorious for late afternoon rain showers but it looks like the weather gods have decided to play ball with only a slight chance of drizzle being predicted for race day.
In terms of tyres for this one, Pirelli have opted to issue the supersoft, soft, and medium compounds for this weekend.
To Win Outright
Nico Rosberg 5/10 | Daniel Ricciardo 6/1 | Max Verstappen 6/1 | Lewis Hamilton 9/1 | Sebastian Vettel 14/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 16/1
Outright Winner: Lewis Hamilton 9/1 Or Max Verstappen 6/1
Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen 10/1
My money is on "Mad Max Verstappen" claiming this accolade. This track suits him to the tee; it's fast and rewards brave driving. If he can manage to avoid writing his car off early on in the piece, he'll definitely be a runner to set the fastest lap.
Podium Finish: Sergio Perez *Odds to be added upon release
There is always good value affixed to a Perez podium. The Force India man put in a decent shift at Spa last year, claiming a fifth place finish. I'll definitely be backing him to go two places better this time around.